The ocean can be a pretty frightening place. Just ask anyone who decides to take a dip shortly after watching Jaws. Any horror movie fan will attest that sometimes even more frightening than what we can see, is what we don’t, because our imaginations are often more terrifying than what’s really out there. This is one of the many things that makes the deep, dark depths of the ocean a little more bone chilling.
There are a number of very valid reasons why creatures who live in the deep, dark sea look so different, and are so much scarier than us fellow land dwellers. Food is pretty scarce, and it’s very dark at the bottom of the ocean floor, this means that those who live there have adapted to be able to survive and thrive in their living circumstances. The way they’ve adapted to their habitat impacts their morphology (their body form, structure, and the way they look both internally and externally).
This means they may look horrendously spine chilling to us humans, but they have found the perfect adaptation to suit their environment. While many of these creatures simply look frightening, what is truly blood curdling is the way that many of them need to hunt to survive. These are the creatures in the darkest depths of the ocean, if you saw them you’d probably scream, but this is the thing about the ocean— no one can hear your cries for help under all of that water, so good luck with that. Let’s take a deep exploratory dive into the creepiest, scariest creatures of the ocean.
15 Sarcastic Fringehead
The name might not make this creature, native to the Pacific Ocean, sound all that intimidating. I mean what are they going to do, insult you and sass you until you recoil in fear? These relatively small, but hardy fish, can grow to up to a foot in length and spend most of their time hiding inside shells, crevices and rocks. What’s scary is the way they go into territorial battle or defend themselves by opening their giant mouths. When two Fringeheads are fighting over territory they’ll wrestle one another by pressing their giant distended mouths together, like they were giving each other a giant hate-filled kiss of death to determine who the larger and more dominant fish is. These Baja born “beauties” are no threat to humans, but just take a second to imagine that big ugly mug, who looks like a cross between a snake and a cockroach, trying to swallow your soul in a kiss to determine who is number one. Absolutely disgusting!
14 Giant Isopods
Afraid of bugs? Imagine enormous ones living on the bottom of the sea in the mud, some 550-7020 feet deep. While the Giant Isopod looks like a bug, they are actually giant crustaceans (like shrimp or crabs). These big boys are usually somewhere between 7.5 inches and 14.2 inches long, which is huge for what looks like something nightmares are made of. In 2010, a Giant Isopod was discovered and measured 2.5 feet in length, that’s bigger than most dogs. Giant Isopods, as you can probably imagine, are carnivores, and are generally believed to be scavengers, feasting on the carcasses of whatever dead animals fall from above. Isopods don’t need to eat often, and some can go years without a meal, but when they do eat they gorge themselves using their four sets of jaws. Those who work with Giant Isopods must wear gloves since they’re scavengers and are pretty much game for biting on just about anything if they’re in the mood for a snack.
The existence of the Stonefish is proof that you don’t need to be the biggest to be the baddest creature in the sea. At an average size of 30 to 40cms and weighing in at around 2kg (or five pounds), the Stonefish is the most venomous fish in the entire world. There are five different species of these fish who are native to the coastal regions of the Indo-Pacific oceans. Although they have 13 spines filled with venomous sacs, this is not how they kill their prey. They’re actually shockingly fast, being capable of an attack in 0.015 seconds flat despite moving very slowly when they aren’t on the hunt! Stonefish won’t attack people, however, humans are in most danger when they step on the Stonefish’s spine, releasing the venom. If you suspect you’ve stepped on a stonefish seek medical attention right away, the venom can cause intense pain, heart failure, and death if not treated. Another terrifying fact about this creature is that it can live for up to 24 hours out of water, so watch where you step both in the sea and on land.
12 The Candiru Fish
Although the Candiru Fish live in brackish or briny fresh water, and although they're super tiny, they were just too terrifying to leave off of this list. They call Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador and Peru home and are also known as vampire fish; they're actually a parasite of larger fish who feed off of the blood from their gills. While some can grow up to 16 inches in length, it’s the smaller creatures that spread fear into the hearts, and urinary tracts, of male humans. Tell your house guests about the Candiru Fish to guarantee they’ll never pee in your pool again. There is a lot of speculation as to whether or not this is true, but it is believed that the Candiru Fish are attracted to urine and will swim up the stream, into the male urethra, essentially lodging themselves into the penis, causing excruciating pain. Some local tribes in the 1800s were said to tie strings around their Johnsons to avoid a wiener attack. While this may seem like an urban legend there was a recorded case in 1997 with the specimen saved, after a two-hour penile operation.
11 Giant Spider Crab
People with arachnophobia should probably skip this one, since the Giant Spider Crab is the largest crab on earth and can be as big as 12 feet from claw tip to claw tip and can weigh as much as 19kg or 41 pounds. They live anywhere from 160 to 2000 feet below the sea level in the waters around Japan, but that somehow still seems a little too close for comfort. They are only found off the southern coasts that face the Pacific Ocean and most common off the southern coasts of Honshu Island, which is the largest island in Japan. Although it is large and terrifying, it has been known to be somewhat of a gentle giant. Conversely, it has also been known to cause serious injuries with its immensely strong claws, so avoid shaking hands. The creature has eight giant legs and two gigantic arms with claws.
10 Stargazer Fish
The name of this creature almost sounds romantic, but don’t be fooled. These fish live in both shallow and deep salt water all over the world, with a family that includes around 50 species, so there’s really no escaping them. They have both of their eyes and their mouth at the top of their head and are in the habit of burying themselves in the sand awaiting prey. They then leap upwards to attack prey as it goes by. Stargazers are venomous fish, with two large venomous spines located about their pectoral fins. Two species of the fish are even capable of causing electric and lethal shocks. Since the Stargazer fish are classified as ambush predators who can both camouflage themselves and deliver venomous and electric shocks, some believe they are “the meanest things in creation”. Some cultures consider the Stargazer to be a delicacy, with it being available for purchase in some fish markets; they remove electric organ, but the venom is not poisonous when eaten.
9 Gulper Eel
Think about how gross an eel is, now give it the mouth of a pelican and think about that for a moment or two. Absolutely horrifying, right? While not an “eel” per se, it’s about as close as you can get in terms of looks, and has a giant mouth which is much larger than the entire rest of its body. The bark of this deep-sea creature, who lives somewhere around 3,000 metres below the surface of the world’s tropical and temperate oceans, is probably bigger than its bite. The Gulper Eel generally grows to be around three to six feet in total length, and has a tail which is described as whip-like. Despite its enormous mouth, its diet mostly consists of smaller crustaceans. Just the same, we’re not about to invite old big mouth over to dinner any time soon!
8 Female Black Dragonfish
About 2000 feet under the sea is a long, lean, female eating machine known as the Female Black Dragonfish. The female Black Dragonfish live in temperate tropical oceans, are around 16 inches (40 centimetres) long, black with six stripes, bioluminescent, with a barbell lure to help entice prey before it's devoured. They have a mouth that looks pretty similar to the hideous creatures Sigourney Weaver has battled in the legendary space thriller trilogy series Alien. These super creepy fish live at depths of around 5000-7000 feet below the ocean’s surface. The male Black Dragonfish are significantly smaller, brown, only 5cm in size, and don’t have the terrifying jaws that their female counterparts do. They have no digestive system or teeth of any kind, and have one sole purpose in life, breeding– talk about feeling inadequate!
7 Box Jellyfish
What could be scary about Jellyfish? I mean, Sponge Bob Square Pants merrily runs around Bikini Bottom catching them in a butterfly net while giggling with his dim-witted bestie Patrick Star Fish. There’s nothing threatening about that, except for how deadly Box Jellyfish really are. There are no official tracking measures, however, some evidence exists that hypothesizes that dozens to more than 100 humans die every year thanks to the hands, er tentacles, of box jellyfish. There’s no getting away from them as various species exist in all oceans. Around 20 to 40 people meet their demise each year care of Box Jellyfish in the Philippines alone. Since many of the countries where Box Jellyfish deaths are suspected to be most common don’t require death certificates, many believe that death via Box Jellyfish is significantly underestimated. A single Box Jellyfish can have dozens of tentacles, each around 15 feet long, with enough toxin to kill around 60 people. Still don’t believe how deadly they are? A sting from a Chironex Fleckeri Box Jellyfish can kill a person in under three minutes. Many of these stings cause heart failure.
6 Viper Fish
The Viper Fish is pretty terrifying to look at. Imagine a Nosferatu in fish form and you’ll get a good idea on the visuals of this creature. Like a vampire it is also one of the most ferocious predators of the deep sea. The Viper Fish’s fangs are so large they won’t even fit inside its mouth. It is believed that the Viper Fish uses these fangs to impale or puncture victims when swimming at them at very high speeds. You know that fish in Finding Nemo who uses a giant light on its head to attract food, that’s the Viper Fish. At only 11 or 12 inches in length Viper Fish have been known to play dead and will hang motionless in the water as a way to attract meals, with their light bobbing above their head like a fishing pole. Viperfish are typically found in the deepest regions of tropical and temperate waters. Again, much like vampires. Little is known about them since it’s so rare for humans to come across them.
5 Moray Eel
Body like a snake, big snout and wide jaws, these "fish" can measure up to eight feet long. One bite from their uber sharp teeth will give you a torn and shredded wound that will be prone to infection because of all of the gross bacteria living inside the ugly critter’s mouth. Most of the time the Moray Eel will bite because it's scared, or by accident. These creepers like to hide in underwater crevices or holes during the day, then go out at night, hunting nocturnally. Not fussy creatures, they’ll eat pretty much any fish they can wrap their massive jaws around. It’s suggested that divers can usually avoid a bite from these Eels by keeping their hands out of rocky crevices, duh. It’s also suggested that you avoid feeding them, since many divers do and end up getting a big old bite mark as a souvenir. Darwinism much?
Barracuda isn’t just a chart topping song from Classic Rock Band, Heart, it’s also a sleek, lean, and super mean hunting (and killing) machine. They can dash through the ocean at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour (40KMs) to capture their hunt, which they shred to pieces with their sharp teeth. This is another creature that calls tropical areas its home, with over 20 different species known around the globe’s oceans. They have a pointed head, a powerful jaw with rows and rows of razor sharp teeth, and range in length from around 50cm to nearly two metres long. They like to ambush their prey and feed on other animals in the water around them including fish, crustaceans, and squid. They have relatively no predators themselves, save for sharks, killer whales, and of course humans. Don’t think that because humans are a predator to the barracuda the killer fish won’t go down without a fight. They have been known to be very aggressive towards humans snorkelling in the water around them.
3 Indonesian Needlefish
Those who are afraid of getting your shots at the doctor are going to want to stay far, far away from the Indonesian Needlefish. Living near the surface of tropical waters they are known to thrust themselves out of the water, becoming flying daggers that can seriously hurt or injure anyone or anything in their path. Getting hurt by an Indonesian Needlefish is pretty rare, but isn’t impossible. At highest risk are the area’s night fisherman who use lights which can prompt the fish to decide to go for a deadly fly through the sky. These slender fish have long, needle-nosed jaws, which are also filled with very sharp teeth. They are generally between 3cm and 95cm (one to 37 inches) in length. Someone might get hit by a double Needlefish come mating season as the male will generally ride on the female along the waves while they reproduce!
2 The Real Kraken (Or The Colossal Squid)
The Kraken is a mythical beast that is legendary in the minds and hearts of pirates, sailors, and anyone who finds giant squids incredibly frightening. For the most part the legends of such creatures was dismissed as folklore, that is until 2007, when an unsuspecting fisherman brought aboard a squid so mammoth in size it could be described as nothing less than “a real Kraken”. It’s actually called the colossal squid, but that somehow seems a little less bone chilling than a Kraken. This was the largest squid that had even been caught, weighing in at a massive 900 pounds, with tentacles that stretched to around 13 feet in length. Those present said its eyes were, “as wide as dinner plates”. Fans of calamari, chew on this: if you were to attempt to bread and deep fry these tentacles, the rings would be about the size of tractor tires. The creature was frozen and can be seen on display in a museum located in New Zealand. Beware of his brother, rumour has it he wants revenge!
1 Saltwater Crocodile
Much like modern day dinosaurs, Saltwater Crocodiles are like a modern Velociraptor. They can weigh up to 3,000 pounds and grow as long as 20 feet. Common prey includes monkeys, kangaroos, buffalo, and sometimes even sharks. These animals are so deadly they literally eat sharks for breakfast. They’ve also been known to eat their fair share of humans. Most terrifying is their strength and attack method, known as the “death roll.” They latch onto their victim with their jaws, and then drown their victims or swallow them whole. In addition to their horrifying ambush attack methods, they also live in a variety of places worldwide including India, most of Southeast Asia, and Northern Australia. They call marine areas, swamps, rivers, and lagoons their home. Because of their massive size, level of aggression and distribution throughout the world, they are often seen as the most dangerous reptile to human beings.